What explains the pervasive hostility toward productive entrepreneurs and business executives in our culture? Consider the following illustrations:
- Bureaucrats with the Federal Trade Commission are questioning Google’s founders—and may sue the company under antitrust laws—for “unfairly” writing its search result algorithms the way the company deems best. Tony Romm explains for Politico that the FTC “could tie up the company for years in antitrust litigation.” Nevermind that Google offers enormous value to countless internet users (at no cost to users), and that the antitrust action will damage the company’s ability to operate.
- The Department of Justice continues to pursue Apple and various book publishers under antitrust laws for daring to contract with each other to offer valuable ebooks to willing buyers. Apple is courageously fighting back in court, but at great cost to the company in terms of legal fees and executives’ time. (See my previous article on the subject.)
- Hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”) is an innovative way to bring natural gas and oil into productive use, to provide inexpensive heating and electricity to American families, and, consequently, to create many thousands of jobs. But “environmentalists” have opposed fracking at every turn—for example, they’ve condemned new methods of using propane in the process. And consider how David Wethe describes “super fracking,” a technique for creating larger fissures deep underground in order to produce more energy: “[E]nergy companies are developing ways to make [fracking] more destructive—and profitable.” Why does he describe this life-serving, energy-producing, job-creating technology as “destructive?”
- Recently union members and leftist activists protested Wells Fargo bank in Denver—why? for being a business—holding signs saying “Wells Fargo shame on you” and demanding that the bank pay higher taxes. Colorado blogger Joshua Sharf likened the protest to the “Two Minutes Hate” in Orwell’s 1984.
Behind such attacks on business leaders lies the vicious premise that there is something morally wrong with the act of earning a profit by producing goods and services and selling them to willing customers—and the more the profit earned, the greater the presumed immorality.
Consider, as one recent example (of countless examples), Malcolm Gladwell’s comments about businessmen. He predicted that Steve Jobs will be forgotten to history, but that Bill Gates will be remembered—not for creating one of the most innovating computer companies in history, but “for his charitable work” (nevermind the productive activity that made such charity possible).
According to Gladwell, entrepreneurs “are not moral leaders” and “If they were moral leaders they wouldn't be great businessmen. So when a businessman is a great moral leader, it is because they [sic] have maintained their conscience separately from their operations.”
Gladwell’s breathtaking bigotry against entrepreneurs and businessmen presumes that these great men and women are immoral because and to the extent that they produce the goods and services on which our lives depend. And yet such production—of automobiles and airplanes, books and computers, houses and washing machines, natural gas and furnaces, lettuce and eggs, and innumerable other goods—depends fundamentally on practicing moral virtues from thinking to producing to trading to honoring contracts and serving customers.
Ayn Rand aptly summarized the bigotry against and persecution of business leaders in an essay for Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal:
If a small group of men were always regarded as guilty, in any clash with any other group, regardless of the issues or circumstances involved, would you call it persecution? . . . If this group had to live under a silent reign of terror, under special laws, from which all other people were immune, laws which the accused could not grasp or define in advance and which the accuser could interpret in any way he pleased—would you call that persecution? If this group were penalized, not for its faults, but for its virtues, not for its incompetence, but for its ability, not for its failures, but for its achievements, and the greater the achievement, the greater the penalty—would you call that persecution?
If your answer is “yes”—then ask yourself what sort of monstrous injustice you are condoning, supporting, or perpetrating. That group is the American businessmen.